The Temple and Incarnation

I love it when I get a fresh perspective on something. It broadens horizons and helps me realize that there is still so much more that I do not know. Take incarnation for example: Jesus was fully human, fully divine. It’s a bit of a mindblower but it’s one that I’ve been fairly comfortable with. I have recently been privy to a different facet to that concept thanks to the chapter “Space, Time, and Matter” in Simply Jesus by N. T. Wright. Here’s the first of two excerpts:

Somehow, in a way most modern people find extraordinary to the point of being almost unbelievable, the Temple was not only the center of the world. It was the place where heaven and earth met. This isn’t, then, just a way of saying, “Well, the Jews were very attached to their land and their capital city.” It was the vital expression of a worldview in which “heaven” and “earth” are not far apart, as most people today assume, but actually overlap and interlock. (132-133)

An interesting take of which I’d never thought of before. Wright moves on to note that building off this massive incarnational symbol of the Temple, Jesus talks and behaves as if he were the Temple himself (“Destroy this Temple and I will rebuild it in three days,” forgiving sins, etc.). Jesus was the embodiment of the Kingdom of God and this world colliding.

Suppose that, after all, the ancient Jewish story of a God making the world, calling a people, meeting with them on a mountain—suppose this story were true. And suppose this God had a purpose for his world and his people that had now reached the moment of fulfillment. Suppose, moreover, that this purpose had taken human form and that the person concerned was going about doing the things that spoke of God’s kingdom coming on earth as in heaven, of God’s space and human space coming together at last, of God’s time and human time meeting for a short, intense period, and of God’s new creation and the present creation somehow knocking unexpected sparks off one another. (142)

Wright goes on in talking about how the Transfiguration is the central moment of that: when God’s glory descends not on Mount Sinai, not onto the the Temple, but onto God’s very son. 

There is actually a great deal more to this chapter in which Wright talks about the Jewish perspective of time and how that ties into the sabbath and their notion of matter which sounds incredibly foreign to our present-day ears. You should read the chapter and the book for yourself.

But that image of Jesus being the embodiment of the kingdom of God and our world colliding—I guess it is something that I’ve known under the surface of my understanding of incarnation. But that image makes it seem to come all the more alive in a vivid matter. It actually makes the narrative of Jesus all the more dramatic. I don’t know if any of that made sense, but I wanted to share it.

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